The “word” that reached Congress came from American landowners in Cuba. They were convinced that Spain never would be able to administer the island properly, at least not to their economic advantage, and that the Cubans were incapable of self-government. It's interesting to note at this point that Britain's former colonies, almost without exception, transitioned to self-rule successfully. The United States, Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand, et al, were models of democratic ideals. However, former colonies of Spain, France, and other European nations, struggled with self-rule. Indeed, many still struggle. The success of Britain's former colonies lay in the fact that they had been prepared for nationhood. Although the British always retained executive authority within their colonies, they always provided their subjects with some degree of legislative power to decide local issues and craft laws that answered local problems in ways that were consistent with local customs.
Thus, Cuba's best self-interest might have been best served had it been annexed by Britain, but that nation had far too many problems with its European neighbors during the 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries to take a Caribbean island under its wing. It was obvious that Cuba's only hope lay to the north. This view played on José Martí's fear of the “beast”, as he called the United States. He went to Cuba to help lead the fight and win the insurgency before America mustered its resolve. Unfortunately, he died there while leading a charge against the Spaniards. Martí's final thought must have been a prayer for the Cubans to win their independence before the Americans could intervene. His writings belie the fact that he had no faith in the Americans to be as judicious as the British appear to have been. It's not that he believed the Americans to be evil. Rather, it seems that he feared that Cuban customs and identity likely would be lost in the aggressive energy of the Yankees. He need not have feared. His calls for Cuban independence had taken hold, and they would echo throughout the decades to follow. Annexation was never again popular in Cuban political thought.
The option to purchase Cuba which had surfaced repeatedly in the past was summarily dismissed. Fitzhugh Lee, dispatched to Havana by the Cleveland Administration to determine if the insurrectionists had a de facto government. His reports left the President and his Secretary of State with serious doubts that the Cubans would be able to govern themselves.
Once again, Cuba became the center of attention for the American public. Public rallies were organized by ministers and politicians to decry the inhumanity of the fighting on the island. American newspapers fanned the flames of indignation with lurid articles. Congress began passing resolutions demanding belligerent status for Cuban insurrectionists so that they could negotiate for arms, supplies, and ammunition. President Cleveland expressed his agreement with public sentiment but held out hope for Spain to resolve the issue peacefully. He demanded that they deliver the reforms promised in the Treaty of Zanjón that ended the Ten Years War. Cleveland delayed and temporized as the debate raged about him until the end of his Administration in 1897, when he was replaced by William McKinley, a Republican. It seemed that only war with Spain was going to resolve the issue of Cuban independence or annexation.